When it comes to mobile solutions for doctors to manage medical literature, there are many choices.
Apps like Papers and Sente help manage and search for academic papers while on the go, helping improve knowledge at the point of care. All these apps use the same standard search functionality to search Pubmed and Medline for papers which is not always the most effective.
Unbound Medicine has branched out into this area with the release of their new app, MEDLINE.
MEDLINE is much like the apps mentioned above when it comes to searching for papers.
However, Unbound has introduced a new feature, Grapherence which is a visual search function and as far as we know, unique among medical literature search apps.
So what is Grapherence and is it any good?
To quote [from Unbound],
Grapherence™ is Unbound’s new interactive search that graphically represents the influence and interrelationships among journal articles. Tap the Grapherence button within a citation and instantly see how that article is related to others. Using this exclusive feature the researcher quickly uncovers difficult to find entries, determines overall significance, identifies clusters of thought, and locates seminal articles.
When I tried it out, I found it was quite effective at visually representing relationships between different articles.
The big problem I had, though, was that I could never access it. I tried many different search combinations but the option to view Grapherence hardly ever came up. This is frustrating as it was an excellent way to visualize the (often) complex relationships between relevant articles. Grapherence is a good tool when it works!
There are two options, view by Proximity or by Timeline which is handy for understanding which article came first.
Note the lack of Grapherence:
Apart from the Grapherence technology, the rest of the MEDLINE app has been well thought out. The basic search function has the ability to add in a number of limits although this is perhaps not as extensive as Papers. One should note that this app only searches PubMed and Medline rather than other providers eg Google Scholar.
Any lack of functionality in the search ability is more than made up for by the advanced results displayed. When a list of results is displayed, the user can either view the abstract or (if they subscribe to Unbound Medicines institutional provider program) the full text. There is the ability to email the authors of a paper directly from the app and the generous use of tags means that it is easy to find related articles.
The Clinical Search is another feature highly touted by Unbound. This aims to improve search results by using a number of evidence based filters. Users can search for results related to Therapy, Diagnosis, Etiology and Prognosis with an emphasis on Precision or Completeness.
This is a useful feature and does help improve the relevance of the search results; however, some users may feel that they want to make the judgement of precision and completeness rather than relying on the filter.
The app is completed with a useful ability to save searches and articles for further reference. These can be emailed out from within the app to yourself and other users. It should be pointed out that this app does not offer any storage functionality and is primarily a search tool.
Unbound Medicine has released a great video which gives a good introduction to MEDLINE and what it can do.
Look out for the Grapherence system towards the end of the video.
- Graphical user interface makes understanding the relationship between articles easier to understand
- Powerful results display functionality with excellent use of tags
- Ability to see full text articles (if you have an institutional subscription)
- Ability to export via email
- No way of storing articles or papers (can only save searches and abstracts which cannot be organised very well)
- Grapherence only implemented for a small number of papers
- You need to sign up with another Unbound Medicine ID even if you have one already for another app
- I was impressed with Medline as a tool for searching for articles. The combination of clinical search and regular search meant that it was relatively straightforward to find articles and the powerful results functionality meant finding similar articles was easier.
- However, many users may find that they are looking for an app which can manage their medical library as well as search for papers in which case they may find MEDLINE somewhat lacking. I liked the Grapherence idea and thought that it was a great way to display the relationships between various articles, however, it needs to be implemented in more articles before it will become widely accepted.
- MEDLINE is definitely worth a look as it is free and a great tool for searching PubMed.